By far this was the most enjoyable read of all baseball bio's. Concetrates on the man and the times. Doesn't get bogged down in contract details and salary disputes. Delves deep into the racisim of the fifties in the USA and the plight of Black and Latino ball players and their rise to prominance in the major leagues. Overall an excellant book.
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If you take the time to sit and read this marvelous piece of work, you'll find out that yes, Roberto Clemente was a tremendous baseball player, an all-around athlete with superior skills.
However, what stands out isn't his many and outstanding baseball accomplishments.
Roberto Clemente will be remebered has a world-class human being. A person who went out of his way to give generously his time to sick childrens. An individual who cared more about happiness and well being than about money.
A shining star who was willing to give his very life in support of strangers who needed help.
Roberto Clemente was all that.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
"The rest of us were just players - Clemente was a prince"May 3 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Roberto Clemente was a legendary ballplayer - a .317 career batting average, 3000 hits, four N.L. batting titles, twelve gold gloves, 1966 National League MVP, 1971 World Series MVP, and the first Latino elected to the Hall of Fame. Impressive as these statistics and facts may be, they cannot capture Roberto's greatness. To try to capture Clemente this way, David Maraniss writes, "is like chemists trying to explain Van Gogh by analyzing the ingredients of his paint. Clemente was art, not science...it was hard to take one's eyes off him". Maraniss' new biography of Clemente, (the first since shortly after he died) captures the many facets of this complex man who truly did live his life both on and off the diamond with passion and grace.
Where the earlier Clemente biographies, written shortly after his death, were little more that tributes and eulogies for the fallen hero, Maraniss writes of the man in all his complexity, and though he deservedly calls him a hero, he does not treat him as a saint. Notoriously thin skinned and prickly, Clemente had a career-long feud with the press. Though it was aggravated by the racism of the time, (Clemente was infuriated when the press would quote his interviews using phonetic spelling to capture his accent) and the language barrier, his sensitive personality, often perceiving slights where they were not intended, was equally to blame. He was obsessed with his health and ailments, complaining constantly about his pain, and some accused him of being a goldbricker and a hypochondriac, yet he seemed to play at his best when in his greatest pain, and ended his career breaking the record for most games played in a Pirates uniform. He constantly and vociferously complained about how he did not get the recognition that he deserved, and played every game like it was the seventh game of the World Series.
Clemente was baseball's last hero, not just for his greatness on the field, but for his life off the baseball diamond. He constantly (and quietly) visited children in hospitals throughout his career, both in the states, and in his beloved Puerto Rico. He dreamed of building a sports city for the children of Puerto Rico (a dream fulfilled after his death). He paved the way for Latin players in the major league, and mentored many of them throughout his career. He once said, "If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you, and you don't do that, you are wasting your time on this earth", and he lived by that line. And of course, he died a hero's death, attempting to bring aid to victims of Nicaragua's earthquake. Steve Blass, Clemente's teammate, put it best - "The rest of us were just players - Clemente was a prince."
Maraniss has written a worthy biography that is more than just a sports book. The incredible character that Clemente was - the passionate grace with which he lived his life, and the heroic way in which he lost it should interest even those only marginally interested in baseball. I highly recommend it to all.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
A Star Is BornApril 26 2006
Robert W. Kellemen
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I still recall where I was (family living room) and who I was with (my Dad) when we heard the news of Roberto Clemente's tragic death. As a pre-teen boy, at the time all I knew of Clemente was his batting average and his bullet arm. Then, as details trickled out concerning the events surrounding his death--his mission of mercy to people in need, I learn more and more about Clemente the man.
Maraniss does a superb job telling both a baseball story and a biography. He also deftly balances the many remarkable traits of the man, with the few flaws he, like every human being, had.
If you love baseball history, you'll love "Clemente." If you love a "poor boy makes good" story, you'll love "Clemente."
Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction," "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and the forthcoming "Sacred Friendships: Listening to the Voices of Women Soul Care-Givers and Spiritual Directors."
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
ClementeApril 15 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I was carrying an advance copy of this book on the Washington Metro and several people stopped to ask me how they could get it. They won't be disappointed. At times Maraniss can be a little wordy like when he takes a page and a half to list all the players on some labor committee and he takes a long time to get to the end, and when he does get to the end, it turns into an NTSA report. I have written a full review at [...] and I encourage all potential readers to find my full opinion at that location. Having said that, this is an absolutely amazingly complete and fascinating account of one of my favorite all time players and the baseball era in which many of us just turned 50 somethings lived. Juan Pizarro, Vic Power, whose pre-swing I emulated all my life, they all come alive on these pages. Clemente of course in all his pride and arrogance. From 1960 to 1971, two pennant seassons, baseball and the world changed a lot. Clemente would be happy that his story was told not by a hack baseball writer, but by a world class biographer. Who does the player and his tragic, heroic story more than justice.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful biography that captures the spirit and life of Roberto ClementeMay 19 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
As a young boy growing up near Chicago, I attended countless baseball games at both Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field. Visits to those stadiums were a routine and regular occurrence. But each year a special treat would take place for my brother and me. My father would travel with us 90 miles north of Chicago to Milwaukee County Stadium to watch the Milwaukee Braves. I remember a game played one evening in the early 1960s when the Braves battled the Pittsburgh Pirates. Henry Aaron was the Braves right fielder and that evening he homered and played his normal exemplary game. But the star was number 21, Roberto Clemente, the Pirates right fielder who was then establishing himself as one of baseball's young stars. Clemente had two hits and showed extraordinary speed as he ran the bases. In the field he was flawless, and uncorked an incredible throw from right field as he cut down a Braves baserunner attempting to go from first to third on a hit. Even my father, not much of a baseball fan, was impressed, remarking to me, "Who is that 21, he is quite a player!" While the years have diminished some of the details of that game played more than 40 years ago, I have never forgotten the night when perhaps the two greatest right fielders of their generation performed on a weeknight evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
David Maraniss selects unique subjects for his biographical talents. For reasons known only to him, he has limited his subjects to the fields of politics and sports. While these two topics may seem diverse and unrelated, in many ways they are part of a common thread. Politics and sports are a unique juxtaposition of two significant aspects of our culture, where success and failure are often public and fleeting. Many people have strong opinions about both topics and do not hesitate to publicly share those views. Politicians and sports figures often lead significantly different lives in public than in private. Thus it was with legendary Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi, whose life Maraniss chronicled in WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED: A Life of Vince Lombardi. So it is again in CLEMENTE: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero, a superb account of not just a man, but of an era when life in America and life in baseball underwent cataclysmic changes that profoundly altered the characteristics of both entities.
The Puerto Rican-born Clemente began his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, an era of baseball far different from the present game. In the '50s, ownership ruled and players were commodities bought and sold at the team's whim. Clemente signed with the Dodgers because their New York location would allow greater opportunity for his family to see him play. After one year in the Brooklyn organization, the talent-rich Dodgers could not protect Clemente on their roster and he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. By 1955, when Clemente joined the Pirates to commence his 17-year Hall of Fame career, there were 28 black players in the major leagues including many who are now considered the greatest in the game.
But in the '50s, baseball was still faced with issues surrounding the influx of African-American and Latin players. Spring training in Florida found the players confronting segregated facilities for food and housing. Clemente often remarked that spring training was like being in prison. He would not forget the slights, both intended and unintended, of his time in the South. Throughout his career Clemente was a strong and compassionate supporter of the Civil Rights movement.
By 1960, Clemente was a bona-fide star in the National League. That year he led the pirates to the National League pennant. The 1960 World Series between the Pirates and New York Yankees was one of the fall classic's memorable battles. It went back and forth, and the seventh game ended with Bill Mazeroski's winning home run. Maraniss is superb in his recounting of the Series; his writing recreates the drama and tension of a hard-fought battle between two outstanding teams.
Throughout his baseball career Clemente labored under many difficulties. As a Latin player he was forced to battle the stereotype of laziness often attributed to players of his nationality. He hated the fact that sportswriters who spoke no Spanish and made no effort to learn the language mocked him by quoting his broken English. Late in his career, after another outstanding performance in the 1971 World Series, Clemente obtained a measure of revenge. As television cameras circled him for comments after his most valuable player performance in the Series, Clemente spoke first in Spanish to his parents in Puerto Rico.
CLEMENTE is more than a story of baseball, because Roberto Clemente was more than a baseball player. Throughout his life, and even in his death as he led a mission of mercy to earthquake-savaged Nicaragua, he cared about others. He lived his life as a compassionate person and much of what he did was unknown to the media. He was a great man who also happened to be a great baseball player. David Maraniss has captured the spirit and life of Roberto Clemente in this truly beautiful biography. A great biography tells the reader about a person and about the era in which he lived. In that scorebook Maraniss is two for two, both hits being home runs.
--- Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Its about time...May 2 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Its about time a book on Clemente was written by a great biographer. Maraniss cut his teeth writing about Bill Clinton, and I'm glad he finally got to a subject that deserves his impressive skills.
Clemente wasn't the best baseball player of all time, but he was and is the best outfielder to ever have played the game. Period. As I read this book I kept thinking about the many spoiled, mediocre primadonnas we pay so much attention today in the world of sports. Clemente had a temper thats true but don't we all? He didn't do drugs, performance enhancing or deadening. He came from a impoverished background and new what hard work was all about....he asked for nothing that he didn't earn. Maraniss does a good job of show casing Clemente against some of the down right brats that play the game today (not all are bad by the way) whether he wanted to or not and he does a good job of it also.
Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero is about a player that put others first, both in and out of baseball. He was a man of grace on and off the field. Hurray for David Maraniss for a job well done. Well researched with appropriate information provided from the people that knew Clemente, this book is a must read for the sports enthusiast. If you're cynical about professional sports today, Clemente is a breath of fresh air.